Thursday, 30 June 2016

War and Remembrance OR Courage Wears Many Faces

Update (Nov 19, 2016): Yesterday, November 18, marked the end of the Battle of the Somme on that day 1916. How long before the world learns from its worst mistakes?

Many men and women rarely find it hard to settle down easily - if at all - into everyday life for being haunted by terrible scenes of death and carnage they have witnessed on tours of duty around a world where civil wars and terrorist atrocities persist. Family and friends from all socio-cultural-religious backgrounds and nations need to support them as and when we can.

Summer, 2016. As we are about to commemorate the start of the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago, we need to remember the human the face of Freedom; various cultural-religious-political masks should not be mistaken for the real thing. 

Thankfully, at least some lessons have been learned since the First World War about the effects of stress even on trained, experienced service personnel in a war zone. 

Thiepval Memorial 


Jim was just seventeen
when war broke out;
he was courting a girl
called Jane…
They held hands at the fair,
dreaming and planning  
for the future, celebrating
their lives together

Jim was just eighteen
when he joined up,
all his mates did too,
everyone admiring
the uniform, waving him off
with bursts of  cheers
while Jim’s ma and Jane
saved their tears

Jim was just nineteen
as war took its toll,
savaged the soul, senses
caving in till no place
left to run like a fox in a hole,
hounds hunting down,
waiting for the end, shivering
for sheer terror

And who’d know any better
than soldiers of the crown,
the human spirit once broken
no  use to anyone?
All was haste, no time to waste,
the pack denied its reward,
Jim (refused a blindfold) shot
at dawn for a coward

Copyright R. N. Taber 2002; 2016

[Note: Revised (2012) from an earlier version that appears under the title ‘Unsung Hero in 1st eds of First Person Plural by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2002 and subsequently in Poppy Fields 2007, Poetry Now [Forward Press] 2006; a revised ed. of the former in e-format is in preparation.]

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